Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

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Six Things for Saturday

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Folks, I know I didn’t write a blog all week, and I’m sorry. So without further ado, here are six takes on six different things. (Why six? It’s Saturday. I like alliteration. It makes sense in my head, anyway…)

  • I’m very happy that my favorite baseball team, the Milwaukee Brewers, are in the playoffs. They haven’t had a team this good since 1982, and that year, the Brewers (in the American League back then) made it to the World Series. I don’t know if this year’s team can do that or not; much remains unclear at this time. But they have had a great year, and their bullpen is the main reason, along with the play of MVP-candidate Christian Yelich.
  • I’ve thought a lot about editing this past week. Some books that I’ve otherwise loved end up with odd errors in them. One such error is “fairing” instead of the proper word, faring, as in, “How are you faring?” (Meaning, how are you doing.) I don’t know why this keeps showing up in books, except that I’m guessing the authors either didn’t have good editors or they relied too much on spellcheck and/or grammar check. (No spellcheck or grammar check in the world is as good as a real, live editor.)
  • I am far from indifferent to the political situation we have going on in the US right now. I am frustrated with the descent into tribalism. We cannot get any traction if those of us in the middle are either vilified or ignored. And yet, if you try to take a middle stance on anything, that’s exactly what happens. As I’ve said before, change usually is incremental. (Mind, it may show up, all of a sudden, as a huge one, such as when same-sex marriage was legalized in all 50 states in 2015. But it took decades of progress to get to that point.) And to get that incremental change, you need people who are willing to look at the problems — take a good, hard, rational, fact-based look — and then compromise to get the best solution possible.

Now, is this hard to do? Damn straight it is. Most people do not have the wherewithal to truly serve the public rather than themselves, or worse, special interests/big moneyed interests. Maybe they want to serve the public, but can’t figure out a way; maybe they get to state capitals (or even more challenging, Washington, DC) and get blinded by the “bright lights, big city” phenomenon.

But this is what must happen to have good, positive public service. And right now, because no one trusts anyone else politically and there’s very little bipartisanship to be had at any level, those of us who just want to fix the potholes and make sensible public policy get pushed to the side. And that’s wrong.

  • Someone asked me if I believed Doctor Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony. The answer is that I did. Something definitely happened to her, and she was definitely sexually assaulted. Her behavior afterward is characteristic of that, as is the fact it took her years to put herself back together. So yes, I believed her. And yes, I believe we need to listen to sexual assault survivors, and make better public policy overall if we can in that regard, too.

(Before someone says, “But Barb! That doesn’t say Judge Kavanaugh did anything! You have no proof! She has no proof either beyond her bare word,” I will point out that I am answering only the one question. I wait for facts.)

I am very pleased Doctor Ford put herself back together, mind, and used her experiences to better inform her life, make better and more positive choices in the long run, and get her doctorate (which is a very big deal). That’s hard to do. She did it. She deserves credit for it.

And the people who are angry with her for telling her story need to show some compassion. Even if they think she’s flat wrong, they should be praying for her; they shouldn’t be doxxing her or sending death threats. (That should go without saying, but somehow, it no longer does.)

  • Weather is the last bastion of bipartisanship in the United States.

Weather is a great equalizer, you know. We all face it. We all have to deal with it. We all have to learn to live with it. And we all have to figure out ways to cope with it.

In my area in Southeastern Wisconsin, we’ve had lots of rain lately, with some of it overflowing the banks of the various rivers. That is never good. (We also are getting more rain and the ground is super-saturated already. Also not good.)

So, weather is still bipartisan, and is still a safe subject. (Hallelujah?)

  • Sixth and last, if I’ve learned anything from this life, it’s that I can’t change anyone else. I can only change me. (And that happens very, very slowly.)

Why am I talking about this? Recent events in my personal life, mostly. I have had to face the fact that no matter what I want, certain folks just aren’t going to change. I have to deal with the problem as it is (or as a golfer would say, “Play the ball as it lies”); I can’t prettify it up or hope for better.

Now, this can be depressing, if you take it one way. But it also can be liberating.

See, if you’ve done everything in your power, and nothing has affected the outcome, that just shows you’re in the wrong place. Or maybe with the wrong people.

So, going forward, I will keep working on myself, and my craft, and my art. And if I can find like-minded souls willing to walk with me on the journey, good.

If not? Well, I’m going to have to stop bending myself into pretzel-shapes, and save steps.

Any comments from the peanut gallery? (Preferably not about politics?) Let me know in the comments!

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Why I Don’t Care About Josh Hader’s Teenage Tweets

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As most of you know, I am a fan of the Milwaukee Brewers. I love baseball, enjoy the Brewers, watch their games, sometimes write blogs about them, and have been happy to keep the faith over many years of mostly non-winning, non-viable teams.

This year, the Brewers have a better team than they’ve had in years. After last year’s shockingly good season (where they missed the playoffs by only one game), they remain in the playoff hunt. And they placed five players, a team record, in the All-Star Game: Jeremy Jeffress, Lorenzo Cain, Christian Yelich, Jesus Aguilar, and Josh Hader. Two of them, Hader and Jeffress, are relief pitchers; two, Cain and Yelich, are outfielders; the last one, Aguilar, is a first baseman.

But rather than being happy the Brewers placed five players on the All-Star team (a nice accolade to have), Brewers fans woke up yesterday to a very sour story, that of Josh Hader’s teenage Tweets. Hader’s Twitter account (now locked down to “private” mode) was public, and went all the way back to 2010 or 2011…and some of the Tweets from that time period were pretty raw. Hader bragged about the size of his, er, male anatomy; he quoted raunchy song lyrics without attribution; he said he couldn’t stand gay people; he even made an odd KKK Tweet. (This latter made no sense, but Hader has been an elite-level pitcher since high school. I want to believe he maybe meant this as a reference to three strikeouts in a game he’d pitched, though who knows?) Worst of all, to my mind, was the disregard he showed, whether it was to women, LGBT people, minorities, or anyone else nonwhite and not an elite athlete like himself.

(Note that I am not linking to the screen-capped Tweets, mostly because this is a family blog. (I also believe you can find them elsewhere without too much difficulty.) They aren’t pleasant reading. I felt like washing my mind out with soap after reading them. But back to the blog.)

The thing is, Hader was seventeen at the time of these Tweets. I do not condone what he said; I, myself, would not have said anything remotely like that at seventeen, and I was considered an elite-level musician at the time, with multiple scholarship offers. (Not exactly the same thing as Hader, and certainly without the earning potential. But close enough.)

Still. He was seventeen. And one would hope he’s learned better by now, as he’s now twenty-four.

His teammates have said what’s expected. (Jesus Aguilar in particular came out and said Hader’s not racist, and that everyone should know it.) They know Hader better than anyone else. They do not believe he’s a bigot. Nor do they believe he’s misogynistic.

Look. We all have said something we shouldn’t, that hurts us. (I know I have.) It may not be as bad as this, no. But it is something we do because we haven’t fully matured yet, or maybe we just don’t realize the impact our words have on others yet.

Or, perhaps, we all make mistakes, so we can learn from them? Or try to learn from them?

In this day and age, when mistakes can linger for years and years–as Hader’s did, waiting to bite him on the butt in 2018–shouldn’t we learn how to forgive and forget? Or at least forgive?

Also, keep this in mind: Hader is not making public policy. He is not in charge of the federal government, or the state government, or even the local government…he is a baseball player. A pitcher.

In other words, Hader’s words have only as much effect on us as we allow. And if his teammates are all right with him, and providing he continues to work on himself and mature and become a better person (as we all must, if we want to get something good out of this life at all), why should we care about his teenage Tweets?

So, that’s my position. I do not care about Hader’s Tweets from 2011. But I do care about how he acts right now. And my hope is that he will be able to become a force for good, and use his celebrity and money to good effect.

In that way, he can transform this obnoxious episode from his past into something better. And then, maybe, his old Tweets can become a blessing…that is the best-case scenario.

Why I Love Baseball

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Ever since I was a child, I have loved baseball. There’s something about how the game is played, including the managerial moves (pitching substitutions in particular), that has captivated me, and made me want to learn more and more about it.

Early on, I read the biographies of Jackie Robinson, Hank Aaron, and several other ballplayers. Most of the players I read about had struggled to get the big leagues; Jackie Robinson, in particular, had a very rough go of it as he was the first black player to break the “color line” (that is, the lily white major leagues). And whether it was race, poverty, or race and poverty, most of the players I read about found a way out of their bad situations, and made decent livings for themselves as ballplayers.

Because back then, ballplayers — even huge stars like Robinson and Aaron — were not paid extravagantly, as they are now. There were no millionaires in the major leagues until after Curt Flood challenged the reserve clause (and gave the baseball world free agency, and thus shifted salaries rapidly upward), though perhaps a few people came close to making a hundred thousand dollars now and again. And except for the really big stars, most players had to work in the off-season at regular jobs. Car salesmen, say, or at the post office, or maybe at the grocery store.

So if they weren’t making big money, why did most of them play? I think they did it because they enjoyed it. It’s a fun game, baseball; there are lots of different things to watch, from the pitching, the hitting, the defense, the managerial substitutions…a good manager can take a ho-hum game and make it dramatic, if he has the right team and makes the right moves at the right time.

Of course, sometimes, you don’t need a manager for the dramatics to occur naturally.

My favorite team, the Milwaukee Brewers, have had many interesting things happen over the years. The Brewers have had position players pitching in blowout losses; they’ve had inside-the-park home runs (one memorable one was Prince Fielder’s, several year back; Fielder was not exactly svelte compared to most other players, so seeing how fast he could scamper around the bases was a particular delight); they’ve had players do nearly everything, except win a World Series. (One of these years, perhaps that will happen, too.)

But around baseball, there are dozens of things that happen a night that are interesting, and usually there’s at least one truly different and unique happening every week or so. Pablo Sandoval, San Francisco Giants third baseman and all-around good, beefy guy, pitched a stellar ninth inning in a blowout loss just last week, and amidst the hysterical laughter by all the relief pitchers in the ballpark (home and away), there were some genuine compliments. Especially as Sandoval was the one “pitcher” who managed to get through an inning without giving up any runs for the Giants in the entire ballgame, these compliments seemed warranted.

And again, I turn back to my team, the Brewers, for a novelty. They were in a game earlier this year where the first two batters (from the opposing team) hit back-to-back home runs, which is not novel in and of itself…however, the fact that the Brewers, at the very end of the game, hit back-to-back home runs to end it was the first time that feat had ever occurred in the modern history of major league baseball.

Yeah. The first two guys hit solo homers. And the last two guys also hit solo homers.

Now, that’s entertainment!

Anyway, I love baseball. It can be thrilling. It can also, occasionally, be downright boring (I’m looking at my Brewers again, here, as they mounted almost no offense during last week’s series against the Cubs — must I say, again, that two runs over four games does not make an offense?). But even the boring moments usually have a silver lining, if you look hard enough…and hey, on nights like that, I can catch up on my reading.

So it’s always a win/win, as far as I’m concerned.

Written by Barb Caffrey

May 2, 2018 at 4:19 am

Former Brewers Coach, Broadcaster Davey Nelson dies at 73

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Earlier today, I found out that former Brewers coach and broadcaster Davey Nelson died on Sunday at age 73. And that made me feel awful.

Why?

Well, even though I never met Davey Nelson in person — and yes, he was always “Davey,” with the -y ending — he was an extremely positive person who lit up the room anywhere he went. And he could seemingly find the silver lining even to the worst game, even if it was just “no one got injured today.”

(That’s my quote, not his. Davey would’ve undoubtedly put it a much different way.)

There are some people who transcend sports because they have huge hearts and make a positive difference in as many ways as possible. Davey Nelson was one of those people without a shadow of a doubt. Adam McCalvy’s article (Brewers beat writer for MLB.com) quoted Brewers Chief Operations Officer Rick Schlesinger as saying, “Davey took every opportunity to turn a casual introduction into a lifelong relationship, and his legacy will live on in the positive impact he had on the lives of so many people. Davey’s love of life and commitment to helping those in need were second to none, and we are so grateful for the time that we had with him. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and all of those who loved him.”

I wish I had met Davey Nelson in person, mind. He was known for encouraging people. And even when he must’ve suffered setbacks — as I seem to recall him saying once, during a rain delay years ago, that he wished he could’ve played longer (though he was happy with what he did while he was there — see his stats, and you’ll know why) — he found a way to make you feel better.

That was one of his main talents.

Player after player have made statements on Twitter and elsewhere stating how influential, positive, and just plain good a person Davey Nelson was. And how much he will be missed.

As have broadcasters. And well-known sportswriters.

Still, what I will remember about Davey Nelson was his very strong belief that people matter. Not just in baseball, either…people, period.

That’s why he got involved with Open Arms for Children in South Africa. And was friends with the director of that organization for over twenty-five years. And met numerous children, whom he inspired…and who helped to inspire him as well.

And at the end of his life, as Adam McCalvy pointed out in his article, Davey’s TV and baseball family stepped up.

That, too, is a wonderful tribute, though I’m sure all those folks don’t see it that way now — and may not, ever.

All I know is, I will miss Davey Nelson. He was a very good man. He made other people around him feel better, and encouraged them to be their best selves.

There aren’t many people like that in this world.

Tough Day to be a Brewers Fan…Lucroy, Jeffress, Smith Traded

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Some days, it’s harder than others to be a fan of the Milwaukee Brewers.

My team has never, in its forty-six year history, won the World Series. It’s won only one league championship, back in 1982 — when the team was still in the American League. It’s competed only a handful of times in the postseason, including 1981, 1982, and 1983 (banner years, truly), 2008, and 2011.

That’s been about it, for me as a Brewers fan.

So I’m used to futility. I’m used to frustration. And I’m used to the best players I’ve come to know and appreciate ending up on better teams around the league, as only a few players these days play their entire careers in Milwaukee or anywhere else.

Still, today is a worse day than many, because the Brewers have done something teams rarely do — on August 1, 2016, Milwaukee traded their starting catcher, Jonathan Lucroy, their closer, Jeremy Jeffress, and one of their best bullpen arms in Will Smith away to two different teams. Lucroy and Jeffress went to the Texas Rangers, while Smith went to the San Francisco Giants. And what did the Brewers get back? Prospects…with one exception. (And that one exception, former Giant catcher Andrew Susac, has played fewer than 100 games in the major leagues.)

Up until now, the Brewers have been better than expected. While not a world-beating team by any means, they haven’t been embarrassing, either. They’re currently five games over .500 while home at Miller Park, and their overall record is 47-56.

In fact, a few weeks ago, my father asked me, “How many more games do you think the Brewers can win?” My answer was between thirty-five and forty, as they’d been improving lately…providing Jonathan Lucroy and Ryan Braun were not traded. (I would’ve included Jeremy Jeffress in that, but trading a closer at the deadline that’s still extremely productive is almost rarer than trading a starting catcher, so I have to admit it never crossed my mind that this would happen.)

This year has had some good surprises — pitcher Junior Guerra being one of those. So it’s obvious that David Stearns, the Brewers GM, can find talent…but so far, he doesn’t seem cognizant of the fact that fans have to have something on the field to root for.

I expected this to be a bad year, mind. I expected this to be a year where top prospect, shortstop Orlando Arcia, gained time in Triple-A, and where we’d have a shuttle going back and forth from Triple-A affiliate Colorado Springs and Milwaukee — and we have.

I did not expect this to be the year the Brewers traded away two impact players, literally minutes before the trade deadline, and then expect fans to be happy about it.

I’m sorry. I’m not into pain, so of course I’m unhappy with this move.

Do I understand it rationally? Sure.

Do I appreciate it emotionally? Oh, Hell no.

And will I watch games? Yes, but quite frankly, I won’t expect very much…especially with the new closer almost certainly to be Tyler Thornburg. (I like him, but is he closer material?) And with the new starting catcher being defensive whiz Martin Maldonado…

All I can say is this: Dammit. (In lieu of a blue streak of profanity that none of you need to hear, or see, or that I need to say.)

And, of course, I need to add this, specifically to Lucroy, Jeffress, and Smith: Good luck to all three of you. May your teams go to the playoffs, and may you enjoy excellent careers. And someday, remember the fans in Milwaukee, still waiting for our day in the sun…and that we remain in your corner.

 

Milwaukee Brewers 2016: Opening Day Thoughts

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Folks, as most of you know, I am a huge fan of the Milwaukee Brewers baseball team. I’ve watched them for years, through good years and bad…and this year is shaping up to be unpredictable at best, and downright awful at worst.

Why do I say this? It’s simple.

The Brewers have seven guys who’ve never been on an Opening Day roster before. Their best pitcher is Wily Peralta. And their leadoff hitter is likely to be rookie OF Domingo Santana, a high-risk, high-reward type player.

Or, to put it another way — “Who are these (flippin’) guys?” — quote from the movie Major League, 1989.

There are only a few players on this roster I recognize, including Ryan Braun, returning Brewers pitcher Chris Capuano (now a reliever), and Jonathan Lucroy — providing he isn’t traded anytime too soon.  Much of the roster is made up of guys like Jonathan Villar (before he came to the Brewers, I’d never heard his name before), Yadiel Rivera (good-field, little-hit IF prospect), Keon Broxton, and Ramon Flores.

So, with a team that I barely recognize, it’s almost impossible for me to say what the 2016 “new look” Brewers will do. But I can tell you what it’s unlikely they’ll do — and that’s win over 70 games.

Of course, the young Brewers are going to play with chips on their shoulder. And in a week or two, I’ll know these guys better and their capabilities/weaknesses/upsides, too.

Still. The Brewers play in the toughest division in Major League Baseball. They’re likely to be beaten regularly by the St. Louis Cardinals, the Chicago Cubs, and the Pittsburgh Pirates, all division rivals with legitimate postseason chances. That alone makes their quest for a seventy-win season nearly impossible.

The 2016 Brewers will probably be fun to watch. They’ll give it their all, their fundamentals will be sound, they’ll steal bases and at least a few of ’em (like Santana, Braun, and new first baseman Chris Carter) will hit beaucoup home runs. And at least one pitcher will have a good-to-great year (perhaps hoping to pitch himself onto a contenting team at the All-Star break).

So, the 2016 Brewers are likely to have an entertaining team, but not a good one.

What do you think? (Give me a shout in the comments.)

Brewers Trade K-Rod for Prospect — and I’m Not Happy About It

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Folks, when I read about the Milwaukee Brewers latest trade of closing pitcher Francisco “K-Rod” Rodriguez to the Detroit Tigers for single-A prospect Javier Betancourt — the first trade under new General Manager David Stearns’ tenure — I was not happy.

Why?

Well, one of the few bright spots I had as a Brewers fan, last year, was to watch K-Rod come out to save games. He was one of the few players to remain positive despite Milwaukee’s dismal season, and he had one of his best seasons, to boot.

As Tom Haudricourt wrote at JSOnline.com (aka the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel):

“K-Rod” had a tremendous season for the Brewers in 2015, converting 38 of 40 save opportunities with a 2.21 earned run average in 60 appearances. But the club is in the midst of a significant rebuilding program, and Stearns decided it made more sense to acquire young talent rather than keep an aging closer.

And K-Rod is still only 33 years old, plus was signed at a low price for an elite athlete, too…less than $10 million, including a 2017 contract buyout.

What did the Brewers actually get? Haudricourt has that covered, too:

Betancourt, 20, is primarily a second baseman but has seen limited action at shortstop and third base. Rated the No. 11 prospect in Detroit’s system, he played in 2015 at high Class A Lakeland of the Florida State League, batting .263 with a .304 on-base percentage and .336 slugging percentage, with 17 doubles, five triples, three home runs and 48 RBI.

Betancourt had 29 walks and 44 strikeouts in 531 plate appearances. He played all 116 games in the field at second base, a position manned mostly by Scooter Gennett for the Brewers over the last two years.

In other words, Betancourt is a step under Double-A ball. He’s a prospect, and somewhat unproven; he is known, apparently, as a good and solid defender, but has no power potential whatsoever.

Granted, the Brewers are full of free-swingers right now. Only Ryan Braun and Jonathan Lucroy, among the regulars, seem to know how to take a walk now and again.

That said, it’s extremely frustrating to me, as a long-time Brewers fan, that our new GM has traded one of the achingly few bright spots on the team for someone like Javier Betancourt. And, quite possibly, a player to be named later — though this trade, also according to Haudricourt, also has a player to be named later on Detroit’s side, too!

(How is it possible for Detroit to get another player, considering they’ve just garnered one of the best closers in the game in K-Rod? Your guess is as good as mine. But I digress.)

At any rate, I know the Brewers are in a major rebuilding mode. I accept that; I’ve seen it before.

What I don’t accept, as a fan, is the contention that anyone else could do as well as K-Rod on the 2016 roster. Nor that it’s not a salary-dump of some sort — despite Stearns’ assertion to the contrary. (Why Stearns would think any real fan who’s ever followed this team would believe that kind of baloney is beyond me. But again, I digress.)

Look, folks: What I want, as a fan, is for the Brewers to put an entertaining team on the field that at least tries to win every night. Having players who are happy to play in Milwaukee, despite the fact that they’re not likely to get one whiff of the playoffs for another three or four years, minimum, is a huge part of how the Brewers, as a team, can get there.

I fail to see how trading K-Rod away will promote team victories in 2016. Especially as the two most likely choices on the current roster to become closer — Will Smith and Jeremy Jeffress — have zero closing experience. (Smith is a brilliant set-up man until July; after July, he’s competent or worse. And Jeffress, while I like him a lot, does not seem to be closing material, either.)

Maybe K-Rod will enjoy being in Detroit, because Detroit, on paper at least, is a better team than Milwaukee. (But as I’m also aware that K-Rod took less money last year to re-sign with Milwaukee because he liked it so much despite all the nonsense, I have to wonder about that assertion, too.)

Bottom line: The Brewers did not get nearly enough for K-Rod. And unless Javier Betancourt turns out to be the steal of the century, those folks in Detroit have to be laughing their butts off at the hicks in Milwaukee over this one.